Giulio Meotti
Giulio Meottiצילום: עצמי
My friend Sami Saayed left Lebanon after the Six Day War, when it became risky for Jews to continue living in Arab countries. He began a new life in America, from New York to Mexico City. He left Beirut with nothing and he succeeded in building an important economic enterprise and a wonderful family, his wife Rochelle and their children Rebecca, Isaac, Linda and Fredi.

His is the typical story of the Jews of the Arab world who left everything behind: houses, cemeteries, synagogues, family goods, memories, stories, a wonderful and tragic past that ended between the 1940s and 1960s. Sami spoke 6 languages. He counted in French, reproached in Spanish, read in English, cursed in Arabic, but prayed in Hebrew.

My friend Sami passed away on Tuesday in New York, after a long and brave battle against cancer. “With G’D help I will put it behind me”, says the last message Sami sent me a few days ago. He now rests in Har Hamenuchot, the “Mount of those who are resting”, in Jerusalem. “He will forever be in the place he loved the most”, one of Sami’s daughters, Rebecca, told me.

There are about 1.000 Jews who die abroad every year and are buried in Jerusalem. My friend Sami was one of them. I am proud of that.

In the Bible, Jacob asks his son Joseph not to bury him in Egypt, but among his ancestors in Hevron. For a secular Westerner, uprooted from his own history, religion, tradition, culture, who lives in an eternal present, everywhere and nowhere, the very idea that one can be buried far from where one's family lives is unthinkable. But this happens because it is not clear to others what Jerusalem, Eretz Israel, Zion represents for the Jewish people. Sami's father also rests in the holy city of the Jewish people.

My friend Sami was contagious with his sense of humor, his willpower, his stubbornness, his ability to see what others ignored, his desire to excel, to have the best for his loved ones. A man with an important personal history, a family like few today, an identity that only the Jewish people can boast of. They are as if animated by this spirit of self-sacrifice that pushes them to rebuild after losing everything, to respect what is important in life, their family history, their people, their place in the world, their name.

My meeting, my love, my respect, my solidarity and my moral, human, cultural and even religious closeness with the Jewish people, come from human experience with people like Sami.

My friend Sami was a Zionist from within his soul. He traveled to Israel 2-3 times a year just for the love of going to his country. Now he will be here where he belongs, forever.
My friend Sami's smile and laugh were bewitching, almost childish, it put you in a good mood, it was the irony possessed by someone who understood something in life and who lived, who got involved. I still cherish the moments spent together, with my parents, at my wedding, the questions he asked me about my articles and books, the sarcastic jokes, never offensive, always unsettling, those that make you think.

“We teased him and called him Dracula, since it seemed as he never slept”, Rebecca said at her father’s burial. “Always till after midnight on the computer working. Yet, the next morning up before 6am and ALWAYS the first to get to Miniyan; even before the Rabbi arrived”. She said how much her father educated them “in the path of perfection”, to be givers, correct and transparent, “to do what must be done, and never less than that”.

My friend Sami was a Zionist from within his soul. He traveled to Israel 2-3 times a year just for the love of going to his country. Now he will be here where he belongs, forever.

I will sorely miss my friend Sami. But he will continue to live in the family he has built. It is not a small thing, for one man. You don't meet many such people in a lifetime. And I thank Sami for the privilege granted me.